Lehigh faculty are earning less on average than those at comparable schools, according to research by the American Association of University Professors.
Professor of economics, Frank Gunter created a presentation, which can be found under the Sept. 3 heading titled Faculty Compensation Presentation, comparing Lehigh faculty compensation to that of professors from 14 comparable schools, using research data from the AAUP.
The group of 14 schools includes Boston University, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Duke, MIT, Penn State, Princeton, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Stevens, Tufts, the University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester, University of Virginia and Lehigh.
The average salary of a Lehigh full time professor is 86 percent of the average salary of professors at the other universities, and 76 percent compared to 227 other doctorate-granting universities in the U.S., the data said.
The average salary for full time professors at Lehigh for 2020-2021 is $166,000. The average salary for full time professors at the comparable schools is $192,900, the data said.
The average salary for associate professors for 2020-2021 is $114,600, which is 89 percent of the average salary from the comparable universities and 75 percent that of the 227 other doctorate-granting universities in the U.S.
The average salary for assistant professors for 2020-2021 is $103,600, which is 92 percent of the average salary from the comparable universities and 80 percent that of the 227 other doctorate-granting universities in the U.S.
Salaries for full time professors have decreased two percentage points over the last decade. Associate professor salaries have increased four percentage points and assistant professor salaries have decreased eight percentage points, according to the data.
The presentation said in 2020-2021, the average female full time and assistant professor were paid less than the average male full time and assistant professor. However, female associate professors were paid more on average than male associate professors.
Full time male professors were paid $171,800 and full time female professors were paid $147,100, for an average of $166,000.
Associate male professors were paid $114,100 and associate female professors were paid $115,200.
Assistant male professors were paid $109,900 and assistant female professors were paid $96,600.
The presentation said most merit pay raises were, and continue to be, offset by inflation.
“Inflation in 2021/2022 is expected to exceed 4.5 percent. Since 2021/2022 ‘merit pay’ increase is only 2 percent, the average faculty member can expect a 2.5 percent real decline in salary,” the presentation said.
Gunter said when it comes to these groups, what he has seen happen is they come to Lehigh, stay for a few years to do research and then get offers from different schools.
“I think one of the ways that we can prevent that from happening is to be more aggressive in merit pay,” he said.
Gunter said reputation and salary are factors new hires are looking for and Lehigh must make highly competitive offers for compensation.
Peter Zeitler, chair of the College of Arts and Sciences, said if this salary trend continues, it will lower Lehigh’s ability to attract and retain faculty and staff.
“I think the sense that many of us have is that faculty and staff salaries have been eroding significantly due to inflation over the past decade,” he said. “The past year might be particularly bad depending on how high inflation turns out to be, and because due to the pandemic, Lehigh withheld contributions to retirement accounts.”
Pat Johnson, vice president for finance and administration, said last year, all salaries and contributions to retirement plans froze because of the pandemic and the uncertainty.
“People weren't in school,” Johnson said. “We couldn't have people in attendance in person. We only had a limited number of first year students on campus. So, last year's budget, we did reset.”
Johnson said that due to the pandemic and general cutbacks to salaries, competition finding jobs in higher education has grown.
As people are working longer and not retiring as quickly as before, there are fewer spaces open for potential hires looking to pursue a tenure track, Johnson said.
Provost Nathan Urban said there can be as many as 50 to 100 applicants for a position. He said if the university does not find the right fit, sometimes they will wait to try again next year.
“In my view, it is really important to get the right people, the best people and hire them as faculty because we want to be successful,” Urban said. “We want them to do a great job with teaching, we want them to have success in their research activities. I would rather wait for the right person than hire somebody where we’re not quite sure.”
Urban said that in the time he has been at Lehigh, he has been very comfortable with the quality of faculty they have been able to hire.
Gunter said Lehigh has a tradition of quality undergraduate teaching, and that’s an attractive element for professors.
“If we can capture the brilliant young men, young women and graduate students and get them to come to Lehigh, then Lehigh has a future,” he said.
Urban said while inflation would push salary increases to be higher, they must also recognize that would require raising tuition.
“We need to balance what we can do in terms of salary increase with what we think we can do in terms of tuition increase,” Urban said.
Faculty Senate is bringing these issues up for discussion to gain visibility leading up to January when President Helble presents the budget parameters to the Board of Trustees, Gunter said.
“Especially with COVID, especially with it becoming much more competitive to fill the first-year class, the administration has a lot of balls in the air,” Gunter said.
Gunter said the faculty is one of the more important interests that the administration is juggling right now.
“Trust me, it'll be interesting to see what happens,” he said.